The Washington Capitals fell to the Vegas Golden Knights 1-0, ultimately wasting an extremely strong showing by goaltender Vitek Vanecek. Vegas persevered over the Capitals on the back of a standout performance in net by Robin Lehner, back-boning a Vegas team missing Mark Stone, Jack Eichel, Max Pacioretty, and Alec Martinez.
The Caps were woeful on the power play, finishing 0-for-5 with the extra man, including a long stint with a five-on-three opportunity.
In this post I’ll take a look at how the Capitals fared in terms of advanced analytics. If you’d like to learn more about the terms used in this post, please check out our NHLAnalytics Glossary. The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
Team-Level Five-on-Five Metrics
Here’s the breakdown of the Capitals and Golden Knights’ performances during five-on-five play:The story behind the numbers above is that they seem pretty even on possession and shot generation metrics, but the Caps took control of high-danger opportunities, which in turn inflates the expected goals for percentage (xGF%).
Through the first two periods, though, the Golden Knights were holding the advantage in shot attempt generation. In the second period, Vegas controlled Corsi shot attempts (CF%), split Fenwick shot attempts (FF%), controlled shots on goal (SF%), split scoring chances (SCF%), and controlled 54.32% of the expected goals share (xGF%).
This is worth mentioning since the Golden Knights ended up scoring the only goal of the night during the second period on an essentially low-danger shot attempt from the point that resulted in a rebound goal.
Then in the third period, the Capitals really pushed to tie the game. The Caps owned 60% of Corsi shot attempts, 58.82 FF%, 66.67 SF%, 69.23 SCF%, 83.33 HDCF%, and 75.96 xGF%. Typically, you’re rewarded with at least a goal in a frame where you control play at that level. The puck didn’t bounce the Caps way tonight.
The moral of the story here is that it’s rarely a bad idea to put the puck on net in the offensive zone. The Capitals controlled the vast majority of high-danger chances, but the one goal was scored off an inconspicuous shot from the point. It’s all about bounces in hockey sometimes.
Individual Skater On-Ice Five on Five Performance
Let’s take a look at how the Caps skaters performed individually in these stats:
It wasn’t a banner night for Ovechkin and Backstrom, especially after being reunited as a line to start the game for the first time this season. It’s interesting that both Backstrom and Ovechkin struggled in possession metrics, but their linemate Conor Sheary fared well in that regard.
One thing I’ll point to in this graph is Connor McMichael’s stat line here. It’s utterly dominant, but he only received 6:55 of ice time during five-on-five play. Only Brett Leason and Aliaksei Protas skated fewer minutes.
The next lowest time on ice for a skater was Nic Dowd with 10:28. At some point, Laviolette will have to learn to let some of the younger players take a bigger role, especially with so many injuries. If McMichael performs this well, analytically, continuously, he has to get more minutes.
The Capitals ended up giving up one goal on a rebound from a pretty innocuous shot from the point, but Vitek Vanecek did enough for the Caps to muster a win. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons, one of which being the struggles of the power play, the Capitals were unable to convert on any chances against the extremely solid goaltender Robin Lehner.
The Capitals need to figure out their power play to be successful, but they also need to lean a bit more on the younger players like Connor McMichael, who perform admirably but don’t see much ice time. With the veteran players receiving beaucoup ice time down the stretch with all the injuries, it’s only a matter of time before the battery starts getting a bit low on those veterans.
By Justin Trudel